MADRID – Carmen Franco Polo, the only daughter of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco who ruled Spain as head of state from 1936-1975 after leading a military uprising that caused a three-year civil war, has died at home in Madrid on Friday, members of her family said.
The daughter of the right-wing hardman had earlier in the year confirmed in a statement that she was suffering from terminal cancer.
“God has taken her away (RIP), but she has not left: I will always have her in my heart,” said Luis Alfonso de Borbon, one of her grandchildren.
Maria del Carmen Ramona Felipa de la Cruz Franco was born in Oviedo on Sept. 18, 1926, and lived wherever her father’s military career led the family until Franco was appointed the head of the chiefs of staff in 1935 and they all moved to Madrid.
A few months later, they were sent to the Canary Islands, from where, in July 1936, Franco launched a coup d’etat.
In a bid to protect his wife and child, Franco got both to board the German-flagged steamer “Waldi,” which transferred them to exile in France.
Franco defeated Spain’s democratic Republic in 1939 with the help of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany and the family settled in Madrid.
At first, the family lived in Viñuelas Castle, then in El Pardo Palace, the family residence from March 1940 until the dictator’s death while still in power in 1975.
Carmen Franco met her husband, Cristobal Martinez-Bordiu, when she was 22, and married him on April 10, 1950.
King Juan Carlos of Spain granted Carmen Polo the title of Duchess in November 1975, on the death of her father.
On April 7, 1978, she was arrested at Madrid’s international airport, where she had been stopped while reportedly trying to transport valuable items that had belonged to her father out of the country and to Switzerland.
A court imposed a large fine which was later annulled by another tribunal in 1980.
Over the years, she sporadically handed over some other items of historical value, like the unpublished diaries of the former president of the Second Spanish Republic, Manuel Azaña, which she said she had found in her father’s library.
Also, in 2007 the government of the northwestern city of Sada officially requested that Pazo de Meiras, an estate linked to the novelist Emilia Pardo Bazan which had been offered as a summer residence by local businessmen to Franco, be granted national heritage status and opened to the public.
Despite the reluctance of Carmen Franco and her family to return the ownership of the estate, and to allow free access, Spain’s judiciary finally forced the issue.
Thus, on Dec. 30, 2008, the regional government of Galicia ordered that the property be classified as a heritage site that had to be opened to the public.
Controversy also raged around her father’s final resting place.
“I believe that the dead must be left alone, in their place,” was Carmen Franco’s response to calls that the former dictator should be removed from a massive mausoleum just outside Madrid called the Valley of the Fallen.
Some politicians and even the United Nations had called for Franco’s exhumation and transfer to a more suitable and less contentious tomb.
In 2017, coinciding with Carmen Franco’s 91st birthday, a statement was released saying she suffered from terminal cancer.
She is survived by seven children: Maria del Carmen (1951), Maria de la O “Mariola” (1952), Francisco de Asis “Francis Franco” (1954), Maria del Mar “Merry” (1956), Jose Cristobal (1958), Maria Aranzazu “Arancha” (1962) and Jaime Felipe (1964).